Tom Sorensen

Welcome back, Captain Munnerlyn. For 89 reasons, Tom Sorensen owes you a drink.

Welcome back to the Carolina Panthers, Captain Munnerlyn. Don’t forget why Tom Sorensen owes you a drink.
Welcome back to the Carolina Panthers, Captain Munnerlyn. Don’t forget why Tom Sorensen owes you a drink. AP

I was sitting at a small table in an upscale restaurant near Southpark, waiting for takeout and drinking a glass of wine. A second glass of wine appeared and the woman who delivered it pointed. On him, she said.

I walked across the little room and thanked Captain Munnerlyn. A cornerback out of South Carolina, he had played the five previous seasons for the Carolina Panthers. This was 2014, and for the first time since leaving school, he was without a team.

This was a time when the salary cap dramatically jumped and the Panthers lost several free agents, among them Ted Ginn Jr.

Munnerlyn also would benefit. He would sign a lucrative three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings. But on this night he was unemployed. Darn it, he bought me a drink anyway.

If you like football, you like Munnerlyn. Listed at 5-9, he might have set a Carolina record for altercations. Wasn’t his fault. If somebody went after a teammate, Munnerlyn was there.

I swear that if a Panther were jumped in, say, Iowa, Munnerlyn would be on the next flight to Des Moines.

The story at the Southpark restaurant would be better if Captain Munnerlyn bought me a Captain Morgan rum and Coke. But I can’t lie.

As Munnerlyn and I talked, a guy on my left, a guy Munnerlyn couldn’t see, had heard our conversation. The guy was giddy as a kid, being around a Panther, and as Captain and I talked he began to jump asking, “Who is he? Who is he? Who is he?”

When I left Munnerlyn’s table I went to the guy and whispered, “That’s Steve Smith.”

Ten seconds later a voice filled the room.

It was Munneryn’s, and it said, “I am not Steve Smith!”

A good time was had by most.

Tom Sorensen is a retired Charlotte Observer columnist. Sign up for his newsletter, and follow him on Twitter: @tomsorensen

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